© UNICEF/NYHQ2006/Pirozzi

Every year, I’m fascinated to see new rankings of all the countries on earth.

Some of these lists tell me where the world’s happiest people live. Some tell me where the best public transport systems are, where the best coffee is, or where I can book the cheapest hotel room. They encourage me to think: where do I want to live, where should I travel and where do I wish I was born?

For me, one of these rankings trumps all others. If I could choose, it would be as simple as this: I’d be born where I would have the best chance to make it to my fifth birthday.

I spent most of my childhood in suburban Melbourne. At my local childcare centre, I learnt English as I spent days climbing over play equipment, scratching my knees on cement, colouring outside the lines and gulping down mugs of frothy chocolate milk.

There was nothing unique or unusual about my childhood. I simply enjoyed the basic rights that every child is entitled to: safety, health, play and education.

But before they take their first breath, the lives of millions of children are shaped forever by their country, community and gender. Through no choice of their own, children are born into circumstances that will leave them struggling to overcome disease, stay healthy and reach five years old.

We’ve made giant leaps in the last twenty five years. Since 1990, the world has halved both the rate and number of child deaths - and that’s something the global community should be proud of. But severe inequities remain between rich and poor countries. A girl born in Chad today is around thirty times less likely to celebrate her fifth birthday than a girl born in Australia.
Young mother Idéita is thankful to be able to immunise her children at a health clinic near their house in Chad. “I often go with my daughter for routine vaccinations. Today, my daughter is very healthy,” says Idéita. © UNICEF/UNI180368/Nangyo

Every year, UNICEF reports on inequities between children around the world - of which child survival is the most glaring. Skip to the full list or click here for the full State of the World's Children report.

Where children have the best chance

Unsurprisingly, some of the places with the lowest under-five mortality rates are amongst the world’s richest countries. In these places, three or less children out of 1,000 die before their fifth birthday:
  • Luxembourg
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Slovenia
  • Singapore
  • San Marino
  • Republic of Korea
  • Norway
  • Japan
  • Estonia
  • Czech Republic
  • Cyprus
  • Andorra
These encouraging numbers reflect improved access to the things children need to reach their potential: good nutrition, clean water, safety and health care. But improvements in the child mortality rate don’t paint the full picture: in some countries, overall progress has left behind the poorest and most marginalised children.

Despite significant improvements since 1998, Aboriginal Australian children are still almost twice as likely die before five than non-Indigenous Australians. In 2013, infants born to African American parents were more than twice as likely to lose their lives than those born to white Americans. With investment in their most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, countries can start to close the equity gap and ensure that every child gets a fair share of national progress.

Where they face the biggest challenges

In 2015, about 80 percent of children who didn’t reach five years lived in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In these countries, around one in every ten children won’t live to see their fifth birthday:
  • Angola
  • Chad
  • Somalia
  • Central African Republic
  • Sierra Leone
  • Mali
  • Nigeria
  • Benin
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Niger
For parents like Mariama, access to essential services makes a profound difference in helping their kids through childhood. When Mariama’s daughter Hawa started showing signs of malnutrition, she brought her to a health clinic in Sierra Leone where UNICEF supports the therapeutic feeding Hawa will need to survive and recover.
Baby Hawa is at a health centre in Juru, Sierra Leone. © UNICEF/UN011615/Holt

But Mariama’s other children didn’t have the same chance.

“My third baby died because when his temperature became hot we had no money and were not able to buy medicine. The free healthcare programme had not started. Instead the baby remained in our hands and God took the baby’s life.”

It doesn’t need to be like this


A fairer world is possible. A child’s life might seem like a lottery where an unlucky draw decides if they’ll have enough to eat, if they can go to school, or if they can see a doctor when they’re sick. But while children can’t decide the circumstances into which they are born, we can make sure every child has the opportunities they need to survive and thrive.

UNICEF is committed to making sure no child is left behind. It's why our teams are committed to the hard work of protecting children in emergencies; why our staff will cross rivers and deserts to help children in the world's most remote communities.

With a monthly gift, you can help us reach the world’s disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded children. Sign up today to provide the reliable resources UNICEF needs to continue its work in more than 190 countries, delivering lifesaving water, health and nutrition supplies wherever children need us most.



A fair chance for every child

The world has made tremendous progress in reducing child deaths, getting children into school and lifting families out of poverty. Change is possible and it continues today.

With a monthly gift, you can help UNICEF support the world's most disadvantaged and marginalised children through childhood and beyond. Join our Global Parents to make a beautiful commitment: no matter where a child is born and no matter what comes their way, you’ll give them a chance.